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Bill to Ban Ephedra Sales In Indiana Heads to The Senate

Feb 9, 2004 | Purdue Exponent Some of the possible side effects associated with this substance are seizure, heart attack, stroke and death.

The chemical ephedra has been blamed for more than 155 deaths, including that of Steve Bechler, pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.

On Dec. 30, 2003, the FDA said it would seek to ban the sale of products containing ephedra. Republican state Senator Ronnie Alting has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of ephedra in Indiana. The bill passed through the Senate Health and Provider Committee unanimously and passed debate by the full Senate last Wednesday.

Ephedra is a common ingredient in many diet pills. However, a recent report released by RAND, a government think-tank, found only minimal evidence that supports the health benefits associated with ephedra.

Ephedra is often referred to as "legal speed," and Nancy Maylath, director of the Student Wellness Office, said that's an accurate description.

"It acts on the same pathways and it acts very similarly to speed and methamphetamines," she said. Ephedra is also in the family of chemicals that are the active ingredients in methamphetamines.

Susan White, director of the Purdue pharmacy, said ephedra is a stimulant similar to epinephrine, a chemical associated with the "fight-or-flight" syndrome. When people take ephedra, their blood vessels dilate, their heart rate increases and their metabolism speeds up. White said pharmacists have been uncomfortable with ephedra for years.

"It should have been taken off the market years ago," she said. "People don't use it as they're supposed to."

People should not take ephedra if they have a pre-existing heart condition or if they are pregnant. White said many people aren't aware of the possible dangers associated with taking ephedra on a regular basis.

Rueben Schuff, senior in the Schools of Engineering, said he takes ephedra to help him study.

"It's a more focused kind of energy," he said. "I only take it when I'm tired and don't have time to sleep."

Schuff also says that the ban would be unnecessary if people used ephedra safely.

"I think people need to take responsibility for themselves and not rely on the government," he said.

Illinois and Ohio have already banned the sale of ephedra. The NFL, NCAA and NBA have all banned the use of ephedra.

Schuff said he will buy a few bottles of ephedra pills if it looks like the bill will pass.

The General Nutrition Center hasn't stocked ephedra since June 2003, said Chris T., the manager of the GNC store in the Tippecanoe Mall. The company removed ephedra in response to the proposed bill that would ban the sale of it. The company has also instituted a card-checking system to prevent the sale of vitamins, diet pills and hormones to minors.

"GNC has always been a leader when it comes to providing our customers with the right product," Chris T. said.

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